As cases of cholera have recently spread across Cuba, possibly killing more than a dozen patients, the Castro government has been stone-silent on the epidemic, fearing news could hurt tourism. That see-no-evil approach will be more difficult starting today, though, thanks toan official U.S. travel alert
that visitors are at risk of getting the dangerous illness.
The warning comes after at least five recent visitors to the island contracted cholera.
"Media reports have indicated that cases of cholera have been identified in the city of Havana," reads the U.S. statement, "possibly linked to a reported outbreak of cholera in eastern Cuba."
The Cuban outbreak may have started when medical workers returned from a trip to Haiti, where a cholera outbreak has killed more than 8,000 since Haiti's devastating earthquake in 2010. Cases were first reported in eastern Cuba, particularly Bayamo and Manzanillo, and the disease has since spread to the capital city.
Castro officials have been quiet on the outbreak, confirming only three deaths and mentioning only "acute diarrheic diseases," the Miami Herald reports. But dissident organizations have said that as many as 15 may have died from the disease.
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The U.S. warning comes after confirmed cholera cases in five recent visitors who traveled from Italy, Venezuela and Chile.
The news is particularly worrisome to Florida health officials, considering thousands of Cuban-Americans travel to the island every month from the state. So far, though, the Florida Department of Health tells the Herald no cases have been reported in the Sunshine State.
If you are headed to Havana, the State Department recommends regular hand washing and carefully chosen food and water sources.